Benjamin was treated sensitively: State Counsel
STAFF from Benjamin Lim's school took care to ensure he was sensitively treated when police officers turned up on Jan 26 to speak to him, said State Counsel Wong Woon Kwong in court yesterday.
The Secondary 3 student's parents were also kept informed of the situation, he noted, during his opening statement at a coroner's inquiry into Benjamin's death.
The 14-year-old was found dead at the foot of a Housing Board flat in Yishun where he lived, after being questioned by police earlier that day for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl.
"A serious offence involving the outrage of modesty of a very young girl" was reported on Jan 25, he said.
This prompted the police to visit North View Secondary School the next day, when they were unable to establish the boy's identity initially. Camera footage had shown the boy wearing the school's uniform.
Five plainclothes officers arrived in two unmarked cars at the school on Jan 26.
But, added Mr Wong, the school and police took steps to handle Benjamin sensitively throughout the process.
This included wearing civilian attire, allowing the principal to speak to the schoolboy to reassure him before the police interview and having the school counsellor join in the interview, he added.
Benjamin was also allowed to speak to his mother before going to the police station and was not restrained or handcuffed.
An officer also spoke to him in the car to put him at ease, and he was then interviewed in an open plan office.
The young boy was not placed with other adults in custody when waiting for his mother to bail him out after he was arrested, and was released within four hours of being taken to the station.
There were no signs of emotional distress or instability, said Mr Wong. Officers and school staff who interacted with the boy said he had not behaved unusually.
The only sign of stress he showed was when his mother spoke to him over the phone at school, Mr Wong added.
His mother and sister said he behaved normally at home as well, and had an "unremarkable reaction" when told he would not be attending a Secondary 3 school camp the following day.
The State Counsel stressed that much of the inquiry will seek to establish how the boy's death occurred.
Benjamin's family, including his parents and elder brother, were present in the gallery, and watched proceedings with a sombre expression.
Representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Education were also present.